Founded in 1676, Lock & Co. Hatters is officially the oldest hat shop in the world and counts practically every notable character from history, whether real or fictional, from Brummell to Bond.
The original store from 1765 on St. James's Street.
When the hat-specialist Lock & Co. Hatters was founded in 1676 by Robert Davis, London was still rebuilding itself following the Great Fire of London that occurred ten years prior. It destroyed a devastating four-fifths of The City but for context, London’s population then was easily less than 500,000 (the fire claimed a reported, but contested, six souls), and its boundaries were a nanoscopic fraction of what they are now. It’s hard to think of them as being the same city, but thankfully businesses like Lock & Co. act as a linear pathway from then to now.
A terrifying landscape of the Great Fire of London in 1666, which destroyed four-fifths of The City and claimed only six lives.
When you’re a company with a vintage like Lock & Co.’s, you need an archive to live up to it. Thankfully, it does, and while it’s in possession of many important hats belonging to equally important heads, artefacts and documents, one extremely interesting one is a hand-engraved map from 1707.
London Plan 1707
It shows that London’s western boundary ended alongside St. James’s Street (the original West End) and this is where Lock & Co has been in the exact same Grade II listed building since 1765. It’s astonishing on so many levels, and a great titbit of local trivia is that the last-known duel was fought around the corner on Pickering Place - an easy-to-miss alleyway that leads into a quaint Georgian courtyard.
An early illustration of St. James's. Note the newly-made pavement which allowed certain individuals from high society to show-off their finest wares and, of course, hats.
Ben Darymple, Managing Director, informs Mason & Sons that St James’s was the first street in London to be paved and this allowed the landed gentry to show off their best wares that were typically worn only indoors. In tandem with their frocks and coats, was, of course, a hat.
One of the earliest photographs of Lock & Co's store on St. James's. The man standing in the doorway, shop manager James Benning, was supposedly the inspiration of Lewis Carroll's Mad Hatter character in Alice in Wonderland.
There were many hatters around then, but only Lock & Co. has weathered through the storms of time, and today it’s a forward-thinking, family-owned, ninth-generation business that still does one thing, and one thing only: hats of supreme quality.
Inside the store today, while on the right-hand side you can just about make out the two Royal Warrants owned by Lock & Co, issued by HRH Duke of Edinburgh and HRH Prince of Wales.
If you were to reel off Lock & Co.’s past clients, it would read like a guest list of the ultimate dinner party. There’s Lord Nelson, Beau Brummell, Oscar Wilde, Charlie Chaplin, Laurence Olivier, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr, Peter O’Toole, Mike Tyson and Ray Winstone. Thankfully, to instil some parliamentary procedure to prevent the house burning down, you could then add to the list every member of the Royal Family. Starting with HRH The Queen (The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince of Wales have both issued Lock & Co with Royal Warrants the documents of which can be viewed in-store), plus practically ever Prime Minister since its inception, including Churchill who was rarely seen without a Cambridge and Homburg hat. Overall, we are yet to discover a business that can rival Lock & Co’s list of custodians, but welcome a challenge.
Churchill wearing his Homburg from Lock & Co in one of his most famous photographs, which he requested to be taken, in 1940.
There’s a name that’s been omitted from the list above, and while technically a fictional character, he’s superseded those limitations for obvious reasons. It should come as no surprise then, that it’s James Bond – starting with Connery, and then Moore, Dalton, Brosnan and Craig.
While it's not Connery in the opening sequence of Dr. No, the silhouette is wearing a Lock & Co trilby, which would then feature in all of Connery's outings as James Bond.
It only takes a few seconds before Lock & Co. features in Dr. No (1962), this being in the infamous gun barrel opening sequence (more trivia for you, Connery didn’t perform this sequence till Thunderball and another actor was used). While you can’t make out much, that’s quickly amended when we see in the flesh Connery wearing a Lock & Co. trilby, as he throws it onto the coat stand in Moneypenny’s office - a classic and recurring scene that never disappoints. With Lock & Co.’s trilby, he, of course, wears Anthony Sinclair "Conduit Cut" suits, cocktail cuff shirts and grenadine ties, so now, Mason & Sons can offer the complete look.
'No pictures please - Connery behind-the-scenes in Dr. No.
The exact model of the trilby in question is the Sandown. “It’s a staple that’s been in the range since the 1950s,” says Darymple. It’s rendered in rabbit fur felt – which is a material that’s been used for centuries, and to block it (which in layman terms means to shape it) the felt requires a great deal of heat and pressure, not to mention skill. The brim measures at two inches, which is deemed small and comes unlined with a rough-edged finish, grosgrain ribbon and leather sweatband.
Connery in Dr. No (1962) putting Mr. Jones, played by Reggie Carter, in his place with his Sandown trilby for added value.
Traditionally speaking, the Sandown is a racing trilby and if you were going to the races back then it would always be in brown. However, the notion of the tone of Connery’s Sandown still stirs debate. In some scenes, it appears green, in others, it has a more grey hue. This is down to the cinematography, lighting etc., which by today’s technological standards would be considered prehistoric, but Dalrymple ensures that it is indeed brown.
Connery with Tatiana Romanova, played by Daniela Bianchi, in From Russia With Love (1963) – we wonder why he's smiling.
In terms of wearability, the Sandown trilby is arguably one of Lock & Co’s easiest hats to wear. “It’s not ostentatious nor flamboyant whatsoever. I think that’s why it works for Bond - it’s something very smart and accessible without being too showy,” says Dalrymple. The Sandown trilby then appears in From Russia With Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964) and Thunderball (1965).
One of our favourite moments in the early Bond films with a disapproving Miss Moneypenny.
We hope that you will agree with us in saying that there simply isn't another company on earth that has a heritage and history any way near Lock & Co.'s. So, to say that we are most-pleased to be representing this historic brand would be an understatement. The Sandown trilby remains one of the company's best-selling styles, and whether it's for town or country, we feel confident that it can add a little extra into your wardrobe.
Shop for the Lock & Co. Sandown trilby here.